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Fitness at Yale and Beyond

It's rare to find an empty residential college fitness room, and Yale's streets are often filled with joggers. Whether you're looking to increase your endurance, build muscle, or just look great, here's a brief guide to the art of exercise.

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Aerobic Exercise

This covers the majority of what most people call "exercise for the sake of exercise". Whether you're running, biking, rowing, or on the elliptical, when your heart is working harder than your muscles, you're performing aerobic exercise.

There's a lot of science behind how your body sorts all this out, but in essence, there are five different "levels" of aerobic exercise, arranged here from easiest to hardest:

  • Level One: The equivalent of brisk walking or a leisurely bike ride. Your heart rate is elevated, but not by much; you can speak comfortably to those around you; this is the pace often used to warm up for tougher exercise and can be held indefinitely.
  • Level Two: The equivalent of an easy jog. You've definitely crossed the barrier from "moving around" to "exercise"; you can still speak, but you're breathing a little harder than usual; this is the pace often used for calorie burning, but it's unlikely to improve one's endurance unless used at the very beginning of a training program; it can be held for at least an hour for fit individuals.
  • Level Three: The equivalent of moderate running. This is the speed at which cross-country or track teams might train on an "easy" day, or which other sports might use for cross-training; conversation should be difficult, but you can still form complete sentences. Athletes can hold this space for hours (imagine a decent marathon runner), while those with less training might give out after thirty minutes.
  • Level Four: Hard running. This is what distance runners call "race pace"; moving at this speed offers high endurance benefits and will improve speed in beginners and intermediate athletes; an untrained individual might only be able to hold it for a few minutes; conversation is now impossible, but you should be able to say a word or two between breaths.
  • Level Five: As fast/hard as you can possibly work. Biking up a steep hill, sprinting, rowing away from hungry crocodiles. Speech is impossible now; you should feel winded and be forced to slow down within 90 seconds. Used to increase speed and endurance to the maximum possible extent.

Workout Ideas

Before beginning a workout program, it's helpful to know what you want to get out of exercise. Aerobic workouts are typically used to build speed and endurance or burn calories; it's a common Yale practice to exercise socially, as with a running partner, but finding a comfortable pace should come naturally in that scenario.

Building Speed and Endurance

The most effective way to get faster is to move as fast as you can; the human body improves when it is forced to work harder than it wants to. Sprint workouts (or speed biking, rowing, etc.) are your key to success. Search engines can deliver a multitude of options, but two of the most popular among fitness fans are HIIT and Fartlek workouts.

Note on timing: If you're working hard every workout, you shouldn't need more than three sessions a week. Don't try high-intensity workouts back-to-back.

Note on safety: If you're not used to intense exercise, try a few workouts at a moderate pace before your first sprint-pace workout. If you have a history of lower-body injury, a stationary bike or rowing machine may be preferable to a treadmill; if you plan to sprint outside, try to find grass/dirt area rather than concrete.

Good places to run

If you run often, you will inevitably get bored of running on a treadmill or in circles around Yale campus. Here are some nice ideas for a longer run in New Haven:

  • To Union station and back (about 3 miles): follow Church street until Union Ave. Alternatively, you can run along State street until reaching Union Ave.
  • East rock: the most popular Non-Yale running spot, with beautiful views.
    • Short loop (4 miles): Go up Whitney for 1.5 miles and turn right on East Rock road. At the end of the road, turn right again, and then turn right on Orange street. This street will lead you back to downtown New Haven.
    • Long loop (6 miles): Go up Whitney for 2.5 miles and turn right onto Davis Street. Follow the street and you'll see the north entrance of East rock; going straight on the road will take you downhill and to Orange street (see short loop).
    • Summit loop (7.5 miles): Same as the long loop, but when entering East rock, turn left onto the parking lot and follow the road trail until reaching the summit. After enjoying the view of New Haven and the ocean, go down the Giant steps (near the monument) and you'll soon be in familiar ground.
    • Warning! The Giant steps should be avoided in the winter, after dark, or when wet, as the trail is rocky and steep, and may cause severe injuries in case of accidents.
  • West rock: This wonderful park is far beyond walking distance and much less known to Yalies, but the journey may be worth it. You should try Google maps to see how to get there.
    • General directions to West Rock: run along Goffe street for a mile and turn right onto Crescent St. At the end of the street, turn right onto Fitch street, and immediately left to Wintergreen Avenue. Follow the street for a mile or so, and you'll see the park. This route is about 3 miles.
    • Lake Wintergreen (5 miles one-way): This is one of the most gorgeous sights near New Haven, but takes great endurance to get to. Follow Wintergreen avenue for 2 miles to the park entrance (the road makes some sharp misleading turns). Turn right after entering the park and go straight until the road makes a U-turn. You should see a trail with red markings on the trees. Run/walk along this bumpy trail for a mile and you'll reach the lake.
  • The Beach (2.5 miles either way): Run down York Street and turn left onto Howard Avenue (be careful on this street, keep watch of suspicious activity). Continue 2 miles and you'll end up near the ocean.
High-Intensity Interval Training

  • Based in part on the work of Izumi Tabata, who increased the aerobic endurance of athletes in half the workout time it might otherwise have taken with a system of timed extreme-intensity work and rest
  • Izumi's protocol was 20 seconds of intensity to the maximum possible level, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times; all HIIT follows the pattern of work hard-rest-work hard again
  • A typical workout might be 2-3 four-minute Tabata sets; these are extremely exhausting
Fartlek Workouts

  • Swedish for "speed play", these are a little bit more playful than HIIT workouts but still quite effective
  • Basic pattern: Work moderately hard for some length of time; rest; work harder than before for a shorter period of time; rest for a shorter period; repeat until you reach an all-out sprint
  • Sample workout: Run 1600 meters/8 minutes at Level Three; rest for half the time you spent on the run; run 800 meters/4 minutes at Level Four; rest half-time; run 400 meters/2 minutes slightly faster than your last pace; rest 60 seconds; 60 seconds of Level 5. Repeat if desired, or finish with a few more sprints.

Endurance Without Sprinting

If you don't like high-intensity work or are otherwise unable to do much of it, it's not hard to build endurance without sprinting. Stick to Level Three during your runs, with periods of Level Four if you feel up to it. If you're serious about getting faster and fitter, make sure to measure your efforts so you can tell when you improve!

Burning Calories

Calories burned during various activities:

How many calories you burn when you aren't exercising:

Note: Both sites will give estimates that are a little bit low, since college students have higher metabolisms than older people. And everyone's body is different--the easiest way to tell how many calories you're burning is to keep track of what you eat, how active you are, and how your weight changes over time in response to that.

Overall, burning calories is a function of time and intensity. The longer you exercise and the more intense you are, the more calories you'll burn. However, very intense exercise also increases your resting metabolic rate (calories you burn while sedentary) for up to 24 hours afterwards, so it's probably the most effective form of exercise overall.

One other way to burn more calories while you exercise, study, and sleep is to build muscle--muscle tissue requires more energy (calories) to maintain than an equivalent amount of fatty tissue.

Proper Form

Repetitive-motion injuries are easy to come by with aerobic exercise. It's a good idea to warm up with some dynamic (moving) stretches and/or a light version of the activity you're about to carry out, and to do some static (still) stretches afterwards. You probably remember static stretches from gym class, but this is a useful dynamic routine (if you're running; other forms of exercise shouldn't require stretching):,7120,s6-241-287--13442-0,00.html

How to run safely:

How to row safely:

Elliptical machine and bike form should come pretty naturally.

Anaerobic Exercise/Weight Training

Aerobic exercise can make you thin, but weight training makes you shapely--no matter what gender you are or what shape you're looking for. Done properly, it's less injury-inducing than aerobic exercise, and it can work every muscle in your body--including your heart.

Myths About Weight Training

  • It can make me look like this, or this. Reality: the bodybuilders you've seen in the media have freakishly good genes, take steroids, or both. The people with 8-packs have extremely low body fat because they know how to eat to be lean. But weight training can absolutely help you look better, feel better, and be stronger.
  • (For women) But I'll look bulky/overly muscular! Reality: Testosterone is the main factor behind serious muscle growth. Women don't have very much of it; without steroids or quite a lot of food, bulkiness will not ensue. For guys who don't want to have to buy new clothes; you gain weight insofar as you eat. Weight training works even if you don't eat more than you already do.
  • It's complicated! Reality: Only a little bit. And that's why Yale Wiki is here for you. Fear not.
  • It takes a long time. Reality: not if done well (see below)

More stuff to add: Gym etiquette, when to/not to work out, PW hours/classes, running groups at Yale that could be of some use?